RIP Guy Hamilton (1922 – 2016)

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton in the Goldfinger tub.

 

I might be conflicted about Guy Hamilton’s contributions to the Bond series, but he was intermittently a mighty fine director (and from what I hear a wholly standup fellow). Many might not know this, but Cubby wanted Guy Hamilton to direct Dr. No. Hamilton declined, but Cubby continued to consult with the director about the tone and look of the series throughout pre-production.

It was Hamilton that took one look at the humorous elements Cubby wanted to inject into the film (making the villain a monkey, for example) and told him to start over, to return to Ian Fleming’s text for inspiration. I give more credit to Terrence Young for creating cinematic Bond, but Guy Hamilton was an indispensable part of the whole.

Hamilton directed four Bond films overall (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun) in addition to Funeral in Berlin (one of the Harry Palmer films starring Michael Caine) and another #Bond_age_ favorite, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Guy Hamilton was also the original director of Superman (1978), but had to relinquish the post to Richard Donner because the production moved to Pinewood Studios at the 11th Hour. Since Hamilton was at the time a tax exile he could not ultimately direct the film.

He began his career as an assistant director to Carol Reed, working on films such as The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. Quite an impressive resume builder.

Guy Hamilton passed away Wednesday at the age of 93 on the Spanish island of Majorca, where he also lived.

Guy Hamilton on the set of Man with the Golden Gun, alongside Cubby Broccoli, Britt Ekland and Roger Moore.

Guy Hamilton on the set of The Man with the Golden Gun, alongside Cubby Broccoli, Britt Ekland and Roger Moore.

The Next James Bond: A #Bond_age_ Report

Social media exploded on Monday with wild conjecture about the next James Bond. When my Twitter timeline flooded, I knew that one of two things had happened. Either Daniel Craig had made another statement suggesting he’d cannibalize himself than play Bond again or an online rag had posted more clickbait about a high profile actor who called his stockbroker and inquired about the fiscal utility of high yield bonds. (Is “fiscal utility” a thing? Because it certainly sounds important.)

The Next James Bond: A #Bond_age_ Special Report

the next james bond

 

tom hiddleston next james bondThe fuel for the most recent bonfire was a comment from Tom Hiddleston to the Sunday Times where he said playing Bond would be an “extraordinary opportunity” if “it ever came knocking.” The question arose in reference to a Time Magazine poll about which actors readers would like to see as James Bond. There were more than 100 candidates on the list. Tom Hiddleston was one of them. Angelina Jolie appeared on the same list and, well… she has a few barriers to entry. Like having been born in Los Angeles to American parents. (You thought I was going to talk about the ovary situation, didn’t you?) Online publications jumped on the Hiddleston comments claiming the actor was asking – nay, begging – to play Bond, like a short, impish schoolboy in the back row of the classroom trying to get his teacher’s attention to go potty.

The Interwebs have been ready to boil over ever since the Guardian ran the big, bold headline: “Daniel Craig: I’d rather slash my wrists than play James Bond again.” Social media latched onto this headline without investigating further, and thus the notion that Craig was absolutely positively done with Bond became etched in Internet stone. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Daniel Craig!

happy birthday, craigers

Happy Birthday, Craigers!

You old so and so. Technically we celebrated the special occasion #Bond_age_ style with the Layer Cake live tweet last week. We don’t know if Craigers is done with Bond. Hell, I don’t even know if Craigers knows if Craigers is done with Bond. Nonetheless, let’s take some time to wish our reigning Bond a happy 48th birthday and enjoy 10 fun facts about Craigers that you may or may not have known.

 

1. Craigers made his film debut in The Power of One (1992) as Jaapie Botha, an Afrikaner sergeant.

3367ba0899abf9b24d4b492d0b136023 (more…)

#Bond_age_versary 3: Dr. No Live Tweet

#Bond_age_versary 3

 

Three years ago, I spewed a Dr. No Live Tweet to an unwitting Twatterverse. It was just me and @jennjaysleafs on the first Wednesday in December talking Bond and spinning yarns. On that Wednesday I embarked on what was to be a 23-week project — to live tweet each Bond movie and write a blog post about each per week. This was a break from my regular fiction writing. I was burnt out, angry, and incapable of completing new projects. I had a book of 80,000 words I hated, a few short stories on the back burner. I thought a 23 week break from all of that would do me a heap of good.

Let me repeat that one more time. 23 weeks.

156 weeks later, here we are. We’ve live tweeted each of the James Bond movies (and Danger: Diabolik!) at least three times. We’ve crowned a Tournament of Bonds Champion (From Russia With Love). We’ve crowned a Tournament of #Bond_age_ Tweets Champion (@TravisSMcClain and his comment on Commie etching and sketching). A few of us have even become talking heads on an ill-advised Podcast. We’ve even spun off new adventures on #Bond_age_TV. I’ve written about each Bond movie. You’ve written about your love for each Bond movie (even Die Another Day!). I’ve shared my affection for Bond, argued the finer points (and the less fine points), and learned to appreciate the James Bond movies in new and varied ways. Most importantly I’ve met dozens upon dozens of truly amazing Bond aficionados and movie fans. I’ve even met a few of you in real life and become “The #Bond_age_ Guy” (which looks good on paper, but takes on entirely new meaning when spoken). I’ve continued to sail this ship for three years and quite honestly, it’s not even about 007 anymore. It’s about providing a place where we know we can always get together on Wednesday night, maybe share a drink, and connect via this crazy thing called the Twatterverse.

 

Dr_No8

Join me on Wednesday, December 2nd at 9pm EST to celebrate the 3rd #Bond_age_versary with a live tweet of the movie that started it all: Dr. No. Follow the #Bond_age_ hashtag. To everyone out there that’s ever live tweeted a movie with #Bond_age_: I do hope you stop by, for at least a little while and celebrate the ongoing (never-ending?) live tweet project that you had a hand in building. And to anyone that’s never done Bond with us, it’s never too late to jump in and enjoy some good #Bond_age_.

Wednesday, December 2nd @ 9pm EST: It’s the #Bond_age_versary 3 Dr. No Live Tweet

I Hope SPECTRE Will Stink: A Modest Confession

I’ve always been in favor of honesty and truth telling. I generally lay my opinions on the baccarat table in plain view on Twitter and on the #Bond_age_Pod.  Mathis would comment about how I have a tell in 5 Card Stud. Everyone’s got their own perspectives on the Bond series and they’re all refreshingly different. 23 movies (going on 24 in a matter of days) means that nobody has to agree with anyone else! And unless you start calling You Only Live Twice the best of Bond, I will congratulate you on your notions and carry on Bonding. If I’ve ever said anything remotely negative about someone’s opinion, I’ve done so in jest, tongue fully in cheek, aware that objectivity and Bond are not regular bedfellows (most likely just a bit of spontaneous intercourse with no further obligations).

And now in the spirit of this truth-telling, I have a confession.

I hope that SPECTRE will stink. I’m talking about Die Another Day-levels of epic embarrassment. Do you consider this an irrational desire? Pfft. My hopes are no more or less rational than my undying love for The Man with the Golden Gun or my perverse affection for making derogatory comments about You Only Live Twice. It makes perfect sense to want to point and laugh at a movie and think “This is f’ing terrible and I love it.”

Up yours, predictable, quality filmmaking!

Up yours, predictable, quality filmmaking!

No! These are not the ravings of a megalomaniacal villain set on box office anarchy, no, sir. I have reasons for wanting the Bond franchise to fail. Hear me out. In my lifetime I have witnessed the resurrection of Bond franchise three times already. I know how perceived success and failure dictates Bond’s creative direction. I am not a masochist (I don’t think) and I want to be entertained by SPECTRE, but I also crave a truly terrible Bond. I want slide whistles and awkward interracial coupling. I want embarrassing villains and rampant bimboistic behavior. I want sharks… and I’ll even accept some piranhas if necessary… and a winking fish statue. Is it too much to ask to have another winking fish statue? Isn’t it just a bit of tedium to expect a good movie and then see a good movie? Where’s the suspense? Where’s the surprise? On #Bond_age_Pod 12, I already told you how this movie is going to play out. It’ll be good and we’ll all be like “Yay SPECTRE!” But we won’t meant it. We won’t really be excited. Our expectations will have been met. Bob’s your uncle. Start counting down to Bond 25.

The global, unimaginable success of Skyfall meant that EON would continue this new trajectory of predictability. Dour Bond. Angsty Bond. Dark and brooding Bond. Bond with more overt Shakespearean themes. Skyfall Bond traded in nostalgia with a nudge and wink, but the narrative and the film in which James Bond existed could have been any modern day Hollywood action thriller with a quality production team not helmed by Brett Ratner. Sam Mendes scrubbed away any potential for embarrassment just as Thomas Newman’s score scrubbed away John Barry and David Arnold. Mendes’ slick and shadowy direction that dispensed with many of Bond’s frivolities pushed 007 further towards the mainstream, towards greater financial success and the certain predictability of 8/10s and 3-star ratings and up. That crossover appeal meant that Bond would be back for a second hit of success, like a coke fiend coming back for more after that introductory freebie. Skyfall blends into SPECTRE blends into SPECTRE 2: Aha! Blofeld! blends into SPECTRE 3: The Search for Bond’s Lost Kitten. (The Oscar-nominated heartwarming and tragic tale of a boy who became a man who came to terms with his parents death with the help of a fluffy white kitten that’s subsequently stolen from him by a mysterious bald man in a Nehru jacket.)

Unless this all ends now.

Since the initial height of the spy craze in the mid-1960’s James Bond has been ever popular but always just on the fringe of overwhelming financial success. After Skyfall‘s record-breaking box office numbers, I fear that Bond’s creative direction for the near future will be strictly dictated by that ever-present focus group called the “lowest common denominator” — the “lowest common denominator” expects wall-to-wall action, amazing stunts and quality filmmaking of an increasingly palatable and vanilla variety. Where have you gone, John Glen?

I’ve been talking Bond on social media daily for nearly three years now. Because of these conversations, my perspectives have changed and my opinions whittled down with great precision. In 2015, it’s very clear that there are two very different audiences for a Bond movie. There are Bond fans and then there are movie fans that also like Bond. These two groups overlap like a two-bubble Venn diagram. (No other bubbles. Let’s not complicate matters with clarity). I, a Bond fan, want something different. Bond fans want — nay, Bond fans crave a Bond that has the potential to drop an Octopussy on your unsuspecting, complacent moviegoing asses. Let’s see Ben Whishaw hang with ladies dressed in red spandex suits borrowed from the set of Greatest American Hero. Wait, you don’t think that sounds like a good idea? Aye! Therein lies the gap between Bond fans and non-Bond fans. Bond fans willingly walk that tightrope. Movie fans just want to sit in a comfortable chair with their popcorn and be entertained. A team of female acrobats in red spandex fighting evil art connoisseurs? Cinemultigoogleplex audiences would run for the exits.

For me this notion came to a violent head when EON assigned Bond theme duties to Sam Smith. Sam Smith is a multi-platinum selling artist. He’s won Grammys and stirs the souls and cockles of a certain demographic. Sam Smith was by and large chosen as the SPECTRE theme song artist to sell $1.29 downloads to people who don’t watch James Bond. That’s the reality. This was a decision driven my financial surety, not the hopes and expectations of the longtime, die hard Bond fan. The die hard Bond fan wonders if Sam Smith’s big secret is that he’s got a third nipple. Maybe a fourth. Hope for a fourth nipple notwithstanding, Smith’s song is comfortable. It’s offensively palatable. It’s dull and lifeless. Where’s the risk? Where’s the potential to fail as mightily as two mismatched artists crooning the awesomeful “Another Way to Die”? (Shoot em up. Bang. Bang. #AmIRight?)

The direction of James Bond might be seen as progress in the eyes of popular culture and the critical mass. But the Bond that Bond fans grew to love never went more than a movie or two without some glorious, heinous misstep that had critics calling for the end of the series and Bond’s head on a skewer in a museum of 20th century antiquities. Over the years Bond became critic proof because Bond fans loved the nonsense (and we all had our subjective favorite bits of nonsense), loved the eccentricities that the series had just accepted as commonplace. But now, in this brave new Bond world, Bond is championed by critics and the mainstream public. And it doesn’t seem like we’re going back to the glorious, old 007 anytime soon… unless, of course, SPECTRE turns out to be complete and total self-implosion stinkbomb.

And if that happens, I’ll be the guy outside the theater cheering, embracing that miserable failure… welcoming the coming of the new Bond (that also happens to be the old Bond). And in that case, there’s only one man for the job. And no I’m not talking about goddamn Idris Elba or Damian Lewis. One man stands ever by, ready at a moments notice, knowing fitfully that the needs of the few (Bond fans) outweigh the needs of the many (everyone else).

Roger Moore Bond 25

 

Happy 88th Party Moore!

We here at the #Bond_age_ lair got caught up in setting up the DANGER: DIABOLIK live tweet last night and forgot to post our Birthday greetings for the great Sir Roger Moore. In my house we’ve instituted the Mardi Gras birthday tradition in which a birthday celebration lasts all week. This concept works because friends and family of the birthday girl/boy do not feel they have to put life on hold for one day. Things happen. Obligations (like a DANGER: DIABOLIK live tweet, perhaps) happen. Birthday wishes are welcome all week. Likewise the birthday girl/boy can claim day of birth privileges for seven full days, no questions asked. So, that said, how can we best celebrate your Mardi Gras Birthday, Party Moore?

Happy 88th to the hardest working Bond in the business. May you live to be 1000 years old, sir.

happy birthday Moore

Here’s a clip collection of some of Moore’s best one-liners as Bond. I didn’t do it, but enjoy all the same.